Land development rights are focus of lively meeting

August 13, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

William Powel, Carroll County's agricultural preservation coordinator, tried to explain transfers of development rights to about 45 people last night.

But the discussion kept getting mired in questions of whether the program is worth pursuing.

"This should have started when we brought in the concept of zoning," said Westminster farmer Donald Essich, arguing that county residents will not accept higher density in exchange for saving local farms. "This is too late."

Transfers of development rights, similar to agricultural preservation programs, allow land owners to sell easements and permanently maintain their property as open space.

However, instead of selling easements to the government or a private land trust, a developer would purchase them to increase the density of homes built in a specified area.

Yet, county officials insisted last night that they currently only need to know whether farmers would be willing to sell their development rights if the proposed program is adopted.

"We have what was called a 'could ya, would ya' situation," said David Duree, of the county Planning and Zoning Commission. "If we found a buyer for the rights, would you sell them?"

Mr. Powel said, "We thought it would be silly to put all the time into developing a receiving area [for development rights] if the agricultural community didn't like the entire concept. If nobody likes the concept, it won't work."

Invitations to the meeting were sent to landowners in agricultural preservation districts who have not sold easements, Mr. Powel said.

Under the proposed county program, county officials would purchase the development rights using criteria similar to the current state agricultural preservation program.

Easements would be recorded and sold to developers through competitive bids or at a fixed price. The fixed price would be the average of what the county spent per prospective lot for the development rights.

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